For the past 98 years, the Winchester Mystery House has puzzled paranormal experts, comedians, and even master magicians. Do you believe in ghosts and haunted Houses? They came looking for evidence of the unexplained, and they continue to come to this day. This fall, the Winchester Mystery House will once again host these experts, but they won’t be alone. Celebrate All Hallows Eve and get lost in the House on a paranormal investigative adventure at Winchester Mystery haunts.
This year’s All Hallows Eve event at the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA opens this Friday, September 10th. This year marks the deviation for the event, though, where they usually take guests through sets and stories, this year they’re flipping the event on its head. This is day 8 of our 61 day Hauntathon countdown to Halloween.
Here are excerpts for you from the panel presentation at this year’s Awaken the Spirits convention. In it, you’ll read how the creative team for Winchester Myster House discusses how they arrived at this year’s theme.
The Goals of This Years Winchester Mystery House
The Winchester Team had a few main goals when setting up this show before they even started writing the script, one was that they want the tour groups to be in the House at the same time as a paranormal investigation team. The other was that everybody is going to get lost, the tour group the Tour Guide is going to get lost, and the Paranormal investigation team is going to get lost. So nobody knows where they’re going.
The other thing that was a big goal for us was to set up an atmosphere that was very creepy, very unnerving. If you go on this story we want you to feel like there’s something right over your shoulder, like you just saw something out of the corner of your eye, but you’re not quite sure. We wanted to really set up that kind of creepy atmosphere and then build on it as the show progresses.
Then, of course, we really wanted to try to have a couple of good jump scares in there. That’s our personal goal. Winchester Team is using a lot of sound and lighting effects, there are some pretty big special effects in the show too that we won’t divulge now, but they’re pretty wild effects working with a number of partners. Again, the goal of the show was ready to make the House the star. So, [we had to ask], how do we bring the Winchester House to life and have it breathe, and essentially live and kind of comes to life during this experience? [This is] something we’re certainly very excited about.
The Winchester Team Discusses Writing the Script
As far as the process for actually writing the script, our process is very research-intensive. We do a lot of research first, and then become very immersed and listening to a lot of creepy music, watching movies and TV shows, and reading horror short stories; just getting very immersed in whatever I’m having to write. So [the team] is back and forth a lot about different sources of inspiration, we’d see something in a movie or TV show, or even a picture of something, and we’d say, “how could something like this work in the show? We’d really like to add something like this.”
[One of the team members] played a lot of horror video games over COVID quarantine and so I couldn’t help but be inspired by some of that and work some of that into the script stuff like Silent Hill two and Phasmophobia, where you are a ghost hunter.
[The script writing team are] big Halloween and horror fans, and a lot of podcasts, movies, just things that inspire us, a lot of books. As we kind of started fleshing this out, we would have these calls and say, “have you seen this?” So, we’d check it out and then we kind of we had the bones of the story building. It was really kind of how to amplify that and look at things that inspired us and things that scared us, you know?
We typically avoid the blood and gore that you see in some shows and haunts. [One team member’s] favorite is the older movies like The Haunting of Hill House or The Haunting with Vincent Price where it’s more what you don’t see that’s scary than the monster kind of chasing you through the halls; those things are kind of funny, I actually laugh at those. The stuff that’s creepy is the kind of stuff that like at those late nights at the House last year, where you turned the flashlight and you’re not sure if you saw a shadow, if it was just you, or you’re just paranoid, or what.
The Winchester Team Dives Deeper Into The Plot How's And Whys
So, really kind of how do we make that; it’s easy to do in a film, it’s harder to do in in in real life. I think we’re doing a pretty good job of that this year, we can really kind of bring that to life and put you in that movie. As we wrote the script, it really kind of plays out like a film. It starts very, it’s just another night on a tour, just a normal Winchester tour, and then things start to get a little sticky for the investigators and it just builds from there, very cinematic. I think our guests are going to really, really enjoy being a part of it and kind of being interacted with it. Again, we’re taking people through parts of the House that we typically don’t take him to at night.
We’re going in the basement, which is a favorite part of the Winchester Mystery House. Sarah Winchester had these two basements, both of them creepy as hell, just your typical what you would imagine would be like a crazy haunted House basement with brick-lined walls and these long corridors that disappeared into nowhere. We’ve just really always wanted to use that basement. We typically don’t do it because we have pipes and the hard hats, but that was my ask of our tourist team is, “hey I want to make this happen this year, so let’s work that in the tour where we can actually have our guests in the basement given a really cool experience.” So super excited that we get to do that this year.
We really have kind of a disorienting route where you won’t really know where you are. Of course, the element of darkness makes that all the more creepy. Part of writing and creating a story like this, it’s an incredibly unique experience at Winchester because of the rooms and the setting that you already have. When we would come up with ideas, sometimes those ideas would be just based on a room. One of the team’s favorite rooms are the conservatories, the Gothic romantic in me can’t help but love an interior Conservatory with plants and glass windows. So, when I first saw the Conservatory that was like for me, I was like, “well something has to happen here.” So, sometimes you’re inspired by the room or the space and you want to make something incredible in there work, and work with the story. Other times, there’s a certain effect we want to do, or something with one of the characters, and then you have to figure out where in Winchester is this going to have the most effect, which room, which space? It sounds challenging, but it’s actually really fun and I think adds so much to the story.
Partners Who Helped Make Winchester Mystery House
We work with a number of partners, Paint Scaping, which local company down here that does amazing projection mapping, they’ve done the front of our House, which you’ll see soon. There’re be doing some stuff for us inside the House. Straight to Hell Productions is a local group as well who’s doing a lot of our mechanical props and effects. We have a few local artists up in Northern California that are helping us out as well. How many of you are familiar with Hollywood Haunter down here? Christopher Leslie? They do amazing work and they’re going to be doing some production elements for the House as well. So really, we’re working with a number of partners. Debbie Katz Production, she’s helping produce our outdoor event this year, which we’ll talk about shortly. So a lot of little elements are really going into kind of having a blowout show.
We lost 2020 a little bit, but in 2021 we’re hopefully going to get back into the swing of Halloween and the goal for us is to become the home of Halloween in the Bay Area after this season. We have this four-and-a-half-acre estate that we’re going to activate and bring to life and offer you a ton of experiences for our guests to visit.
What is Happening Outside?
So, a couple of years ago we went to New York and we saw a show called The Great Jack-O-Lantern Blaze, known as just Blaze, and it’s really this cool outdoor show with amazing vignettes and scenes made with jack-o’-lanterns, carved jack-o’-lantern, some of them real, some of them artificial. I was super impressed by it. It was an amazing experience and it’s beautiful with lights and sound and it was at night. I thought to myself, “you know, well this is something that might play really well with us.” For the last three years or so we’ve been playing with some outdoor activations, we’ve always done the House tour, the House experience, but I really wanted to find the way to activate the estate.
Again, we have four half acres, these gardens are beautiful but also kind of creepy at night, and kind of the perfect setting for doing something more. So the past couple years we’ve done like I Mystic Midway and added a few things here and there. But this year we wanted to kind of blow it out of the park, so we have opened up in exploring activity a couple of years ago. So we have that going on. We just opened our Houdini Spirit of Escape challenge room which will be open as well, and we’re activating the outdoor outdoors of the estate with some scenes in vignettes from Debbie Katz Production, so we’re bringing all of that to life. It’ll be kind of a more of a family-friendly layer to what we do at the House, so you know they’ll still have the scares and chills in the mansion tour, but also a nice, outdoor, family-friendly, photo-friendly experience for our guests to enjoy and kind of spend a few hours at the estate and immerse themselves in all things Halloween for the September and October.
The Winchester Team Tries To Have A Bit Of Something For Everyone
We think what was really important to us this year, coming out of the pandemic, was to have a little bit of something for everyone. Everyone missed Halloween last year, we all have little ones, and all the pumpkin patches were closed, all of those activities, those traditional Fall activities were gone, and trick or treating didn’t look the way that it used to. So, as we were building the show this year, it was really important to kind of create two distinct experiences. So, Lost in the House, of course, is the indoor tour, for the hardcore Halloween and haunt fans that want to want to get the scare. Then the Jack-o-Lantern trail, which is all over the four acres of the estate. We’re also really excited, we did it for Unhinged, but it didn’t get seen by a lot of people. We did a projection mapping on the front of the House and it was incredible and it’s about a 7-8 minute show that’s projected on the front of the House. In fact, the show that they did for Unhinged was very similar to the concept of Lost in the House where a guest may have wandered off on tour, and the House may have something to say about that. So, we’re bringing that back as well. When you end the Jack-o-Lantern trail you end in the front gardens and you’re able to watch the projection show.
Another Surprise at the Winchester Mystery House Revealed
A few other things that we’ve added on just recently. Walter just got back from a trip to The Stanley Hotel. It has always been a place I wanted to visit, and our good friend Aiden Sinclair, who was an incredible illusionist, he’s done some shows at Winchester Mystery House and he had a residency on the Queen Mary. But with the Queen Mary temporarily shuttered he set up shop at the Stanley Hotel. I went out to see his new installation called the Underground there and it’s just world-class magicians and artists performing. It’s incredible if you are ever in that area. I’m pleased to announce today, Sinclair will be coming back to Winchester Mystery House and doing a series of all-new shows the week of Halloween. So, if any of you have seen him, I’m sure you would tell your friends he’s phenomenal. So, we’re really happy to have it back.
Get Tickets to Come See Winchester Mystery House
So, as we said, you know All Hallows Eve is the overarching show this year. The indoor tour, Lost in House, we’re super excited about, we’re so grateful for Riley and Michael putting that together for us and, we’re doing installation now. The first night is September 10th, tickets are on sale now. We hope that you all come to visit us, coming out of the pandemic hit us all hard, just like with all of you, but you know you are our people. So really hope you all come see us for Halloween.
How complicated was it to do the jump scares in the Winchester House?
Yeah, because we take guests through in groups you don’t get that kind of individual way to scare one or two people at a time. So, you have to really kind of figure out how to scare 12-16 people at a time, which can be a little challenging. So, we have a couple of those in the House. I think we’ve done pretty well just timing-wise. The overall plan and goal is really just to make you feel on edge, so for that hour that you’re in the House walking around I want you looking over your shoulder and you think you saw something. We’ve designed it to where there are even little things that not everyone is designed to see. So maybe this scene will play out or you see something out of the corner of your eye, that may be one person you might see but the other person won’t, so you talk about it after the show’s over. I think we’ve done pretty well, and of course, we’ll see how things flow and we’re fine tuning in future iterations.